By Farooq Wani
A growing number of young people in Kashmir are suffering from emotional despair, low self-esteem, a lack of cultural connectivity and a loss of values. They are angry with the prevailing state of affairs and this makes them extremely susceptible to manipulators who seek to profit from their situation.If the current negative attitude that permeates’ through Kashmiri society is not dealt with, the situation will worsen. The remedy may lie in the education system!! If the current teaching methods are supplemented with peace driven initiatives the youth of Kashmir may get a platform to express their views and shake away inhibitions.
Young Kashmiri people in the last 28 years of violence, disturbances and shut downs have lost pride in their roots and the rich cultural heritage of their homeland. Parents and grandparents who earlier had time for their children and grandchildren are caught up in their own turmoil. Whatever little conversation is there invariably comprises of cribbing against the system and speaking of difficulties in dealing with the insecure environment. All of this has a very debilitating impact on the young minds.
Due to the exodus of the Kashmir Pundit community, Kashmir has become a predominant Muslim region, and as such, the young people have had no experience of co-existence, communal harmony, and the historical diversity that was the pride of the region and what is today referred as Kashmiriyat. The current environment of social apathy, decadent values, divisive polity, anger and aggressiveness is slowly poisoning young minds and this ends up in a vicious cycle of ignorance, violence, anger, hatred, despair and response that impacts relationships, both politically and socially.
In conflict situations education plays an important role in peace building. It can play a very constructive role in development of peace building perspective and thereby promoting socio-economic development and prevention of recurring violence. Educating young people about the virtues of peace would mean covering those aspects of daily life which are deeply connected to ones identity. It is vital for transforming the culture of violence into a situation where hatred isn’t allowed to subdue amity.
Peace building is more of a permanent transformational agenda than short term measure taken to overcome the conflict ridden situation. Therefore, reconstructing education in Kashmir should be given highest priority.The effort should be directed towards opening the minds of the youth that are completely closed to new thoughts and solutions. A restructured educational initiative will open a new window and give the space to discuss ideas, express honest opinions, learning to solve problems and maintaining a positive outlook.
As the issue of bringing peace through educational interventions in conflict zones is not the focus of any single agency or organization, it requires the contribution of all actors. Education should not remain the responsibility of the institutions alone! Internal actors are the ones who have in some way personally experienced conflict and lived with its consequences.
Therefore, in a conflict zone like Kashmir it is ultimately the internal actors who can play an integral role in building peace and rebuilding normalcy. All community specialists, including lawyers, economists, scholars, educators, and teachers must be involved in contributing their expertise to help create awareness among the youth and carry out peace building efforts.
An appropriate approach to building peace is to put together a solid structure of relationships with the intervention of key political leaders, military officers and religious leaders. It is believed that the greatest resource for sustaining peace in the long term is always rooted in the local people and their culture. Building on cultural resources and utilising local mechanisms for handling disputes can be quite effective in resolving conflicts and transforming relationships.
The youth, on their part, are required to take a lead as they constitute a new hope for the society. In my personal interaction with youth of Kashmir, I have found them to be very vibrant and full of new ideas, very hardworking and dedicated towards their goals. Though they are very upset with the system but they must never forget that where there is a will there is always a way. They have potential to bring a very positive change in the society. So the young and intelligent youth must take the charge of initiating education and peace building programs to make a positive impact on conflict resolution dynamics.Peace-building measures must target all aspects of the state structure and get a wide variety of agents for implementation. An all encompassing approach that is locally driven and designed to change the education and information spectrum will pay handsome dividends towards ushering peace and amity in Kashmir.
Farooq Wani is a Kashmir senior journalist , columnist and political commentator